Despite the spooky décor, Halloween is supposed to be more fun than frightening for kids. But for those with sensory issues or on the autism spectrum, this isn’t always the case. To help families prepare for a fun and stress-free celebration, Paula Pompa-Craven, chief clinical officer of autism services at Easterseals Southern California offers these tips:
1. Explain the holiday. Tell stories and show pictures to help explain what will happen at school and on the evening of Halloween. This will help your child prepare for the scary costumes that they might see, home decorations they may encounter and how to trick-or-treat.
2. Prepare to dress up. Some children can feel overwhelmed putting on costumes, especially those that include masks on their heads or faces. To allow your child to feel comfortable in their costume, let them practice wearing it at home for several days before Halloween festivities.
3. Schedule the fun. Use a calendar or visual schedule to help prepare for the unusual schedule for the day (class parade or party, early dinner, time to trick-or-treat) and practice these activities at home during the days leading up to the holiday.
4. Know your route. Plan a map of houses to visit that are close or familiar to your child. Scope out the decorations ahead of time so that you can avoid dark or decorated houses that might be too scary for your child.
5. Encourage involvement. Engage your child to assist with decorating your home, so they are comfortable with the changes and decorations
6. Share the spirit. Consider neighbors and friends whose children on the autism spectrum be coming to trick or treat at your home and think about how you can make the experience more comfortable for them. Offer a variety of treats or non-edible items to accommodate all tastes in your neighborhood
Remember, this should be a fun time, so keep the timeline short and be ready to call it a night if your child becomes tired or overwhelmed.